30 Days of Gratitude – Day 14

images-2

Today I’m grateful for the fact that in Christ I am a new creation.  The old is gone and the new has come.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  –  2 Cor.  5:16-21

How can one not be grateful for God making it possible for us to be new that we might be reconciled to Him?  What an honor and blessing!

images-1

God could have wiped His hands of us so many times in history.  With the first sin He could have decided I’m done with them they made their choice against Me, but that’s not who God is.  His love wouldn’t allow Himself to turn His back on humanity when humanity has turned it’s back on Him time and time again.  Anytime that He did divorce Himself of mankind once they cried out to Him, He responded.  That’s just the way of love.

God’s ultimate act of love was; that He loved sinful man so much that He sent Christ to pay the penalty of our sins thus reconciling us to Him and making us new and the righteousness of God through Christ.

images

If God never did anything else for me my entire life I would sing His praises my entire life for this awesome blessing!  Hallelujah!!! Praise the Lord, God Almighty!!!  Thank you my Savior for dying for me and all sinners!!!

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 11

Today I’m grateful for what my Savior did for me.  He made it possible for me to accept Him as my Savior.  He paid the price that was needed for all of my sins and all the sins ever committed when He was stripped whipped and beaten and put on the cross for the transgressions of all time.

What a precious gift He gave the world and at what a horrible price.  But after He died on the cross He raised from the dead on the third day.  Breaking death’s victory and making possible for anyone who believes by faith in Jesus Christ what He did for them and repents of their sin and asks Christ into their lives can become a child of God.  Now it is possible to be heirs of the King of Kings through faith in Jesus Christ.

God is good to us in that respect.  Even though man has turned his back on God time and time again.  Yet God seeks out man even to the point of sending His only Son to earth to pay the penalty that we owe.

Which makes Him a just judge because the penalty for sin must be paid but although we are guilty and deserve the penalty of death Jesus Christ came and paid that penalty for each of those willing to accept the gift He did.

I started this 30 days of Gratitude without thinking that I would be facing surgery during this month.  My right elbow is having surgery do to nerve damage.  I’m going to be recuperating for two weeks so I don’t know how or if I’ll be able to continue this series after Thursday.  It is my intention to restart where I’m stopped at when I’ve healed.  Your prayers for my healing is greatly appreciated.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

A Work In Progress

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. –  Philippians 1:6

I am fully aware that I am not where I want to be in my life.  There is nothing in my spiritual or physical life that I can say I am at the place I want to be.

Even though God has made my short comings very evident to me He has also told me in His Word that is to be expected.  There will be a time of perfection but that will only be on “the day of Jesus Christ”.

Until that time I need to continue to do my part to learn and grow in Christ.  To seek wisdom and understanding and spread the good news that Christ saves.

Although we work to become closer and more like Christ, Joyce Meyer puts it best in this quote.

God is the only one who can perfect the good work He has started in your life, but it takes some time.  And during the process He wants you to recognize you are making progress.  So give yourself a break and say, “I’m okay and I’m on my way!”   – “Ending Your Day Right: Devotionals for very Evening of the Year”  By Joyce Meyer

God started that good work in you and though you have a part in the process: quiet time with Him, prayer, worship, Bible reading, fellowship, acts of service, praise, singing to Him in praise and worship, etc. He is the ultimate One who will complete the process.  It’s not something that we can do on our own or will it.  It is part of the gift of redemption.  God brings us to Himself at the right time to perfection.

Thank you Lord for Your gracious gift.  Thank You for the process and help me to remember that it’s okay to be in process.  At least I’m not stagnating.  For that Lord I praise You!

A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Struggle with Self-esteem?

I don’t know how many of you struggle with not feeling good enough, but it has been a thorn in my side for my entire life.  It was almost a stumbling block between me and salvation.  I didn’t think that there was anyway that God could possibly forgive me!  My poor self image and my awareness of my sinful nature was so before me that for some reason I thought that God would accept Hitler before me.

Now no at the age of 13 I had not caused the death of anyone or tried to take over the world, but all the same I felt so unworthy that I was certain that no one even God could possibly forgive me for my sin.  It took a long time to realize that it wasn’t a matter of worth that got me into the kingdom of heaven, but a matter of grace.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.   –  Titus 2:11

The passage that really settled it for me and gave me assurance of not only my salvation but my position in Christ is Ephesians 2:1-10

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work is those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature an following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

What comforted me about this passage is many things and I’d like to break it down for you.  First of all, as I’ve already mentioned I was keenly aware of my sinfulness, which made me feel totally unworthy of anything God could have for me.  In Ephesians 2:1-3 it talks about our sins and how we were dead in our transgressions and how all of us lived this way as by nature objects of wrath.  When I read that I thought this Book gets me.  This is exactly how I feel.

Then came verses 4 & 5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”  I could hardly believe my eyes, God loved me and not only that he had rich mercy on me.  Though I was dead in my transgressions God chose to make me alive in Christ.  By grace I was saved.  What a generous God.  It was almost more than my eyes could take in.  My heart was pounding with joy as it is now reliving it.

As if He knew that I needed the added message of what my position  was to help me with my self worth, He goes on to tell me that He/God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, amazing.

So that we don’t get it wrong we are reminded that it is by grace we are saved, through faith, and this not from ourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  This keeps me in the right frame of mind humble because I know that I need God for everything.

Then the writer does us the wonderful blessing of letting us know what God’s purpose for us is. Verse 10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Isn’t it wonderful we know what we are here for to do good works that God has already prepared for us.  That means we need to keep in communication with Him so that we don’t miss out on our purpose.  Since He has planned them out in advance it would be foolish to just go around and do any good work that might not be the one He is wanting you or I to do.  Open communication is crucial for us to know what it is that we are to be doing to stay in God’s will.  Anything else is pride.

Lord thank You for Your Word and for Your will and plans.  Forgive me for my times of pride when I’ve charged off and done things on my own will whether I thought they were for You or not, I was sinful not to come toYou first.  I ask you to forgive me of the sin of my pride and help me to turn to You first.  In the sweet name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Lora’s Lesson – A Short Story – Part 9

Lynn had a fitful night’s sleep. Drank a cup of coffee and headed out for school. Things didn’t get much better there. Curtis was waiting for her at the parking lot. “What’s all this talk about me raping you?” he shouted. “I never raped you, you tease! You know you wanted it just like I did! You lying slut!” Ken had driven in as Lynn did and was privy to most of Curtis’ tirade. He was coming to Lynn’s aid as quickly as his legs would carry him but he didn’t reach her and Curtis until Curtis had called his precious Lynn a slut, this got Ken’s blood boiling, “Look you lousy scum of the earth don’t you dare call her that! You’ve already done quite enough to my woman I won’t stand for you continuing to persecute her any longer! So get into your car and get the hell out of here before I have to get physical with you!” Lynn adored this manly protection never before had anyone stood up for her in such a manner. Oh, how she loved this man. Lynn swooned. Ken caught her before she hit the pavement. As she awoke, Ken asked, “With the stress of all this are you getting enough food? I know you usually eat like a bird but sometimes I wonder if you aren’t too petite?” Lynn replied annoyed, “Oh, you and Diane are such worry warts! I wish you both would just lay off!” Ken could see that this was not the time to discuss this; Lynn was in no way ready.

Dealing with the fall out proved to be very challenging but the support of Ken and Diane, and her family, Lynn made it through. The hardest part was dealing with Curtis. He insisted on a public retraction of the rape charge but she found the courage to tell him that she would not deny the truth and if he didn’t stop harassing her she would press charges; for both the rape and harassment. As she found her voice her eating got better. She also realized what Diane meant that first day by this was an opportunity for healing. It took two years of therapy before she could really grieve all her losses. With the help of not only her therapist but Ken, Diane, and her family, she found healing and came to a point of forgiveness. Lynn realized that She and Lora had their own demons and each needed to forgive the other. She prayed daily for an opportunity to reconnect with Lora. She longed to let Lora know she had forgiven her and to seek that forgiveness from Lora.

While Lynn was healing and growing, Diane continued to remain friends with Lora in hopes that she might be able to one day bring “Sisters Three” together again, especially since she knew this was Lynn’s desire. As much as Diane was attempting to stay close to Lora, she was pulling away. Finally four years after the incident Diane saw something more than just pulling away when she looked in Lora’s eyes, while having Saturday lunch with her. She silently offered a quick prayer to God for wisdom on how to precede, “Lora, I see something when I look in your eyes. I’ve sensed you pulling away from not just from me but it appears everyone now. I see pain and loneliness. Can you tell me what is going on inside of you?” Lora replied, “I’m not positive what is going on I know that the girls at work avoid me and don’t include me for lunch. I used to be popular but over the last three or four years I’ve become more and more isolated.” Diane ventured, “Do you think that the timing of the change could have anything to do with you letting Lynn’s secret out and not forgiving her?” “That was between me and Lora I don’t see what that has to do with the girls at work! Just what are you getting at Diane?” snarled Lora. Oh Lord, please help me with the right words, prayed Diane, “Let’s look at this objectively. You say this started three or four years ago that would put it around the time of you revealing Lynn’s secret. Such an intimate confidence being divulged may have the girls at work worried that if they share anything with you, what will happen if you get mad at them? That is easy enough to understand, isn’t it? Now, as for the pulling away, have you noticed that your language has gotten more and more cutting over the years? This could be a reason why the girls don’t invite you to lunch with them. I love you and I’m here for you in good times and bad but these girls aren’t as invested in you. Even I have been a victim of your increasing harshness but I love you and know how you are hurting.” Lora had a shocked look on her face. Diane took a deep breath and continued, “But my friend you are letting your hurt turn to bitterness and that is an ugly thing that no one wants to be around. It is time to let go of the anger and bitterness. You have let this brew in you long enough and now you are seeing the repercussions of jealousy. It’s time for a new beginning its time to forgive.” The years of hardness of heart was cracking, Lora answered, “I don’t know if I know how. I’ve been living so long with it.”

Still praying, Diane replied, “There is One who has forgiven you for everything you have ever done and He will teach you how to forgive. Would you like to meet Him and start a relationship with Him.” Something in Lora’s heart leapt as she said, “You’re talking about Jesus right?” Diane beamed, “Yes, He is the author of forgiveness. If you want to learn how to forgive He is the one to go to.” Lora questioned, “What do I need to do?” Diane was elated, “All you need to do is ask Him to forgive you for your sins and come into your life and believe. It is that simple.” Lora bowed her head and said, “Jesus forgive me for my sins especially for what I did to Lynn, come into my heart and help to make things right with Lynn. Thank you Jesus.” Almost instantly Lora felt a difference in her heart, the coldness and hardness seemed to be melting away. Looking at Diane for approval Lora asked, “Was that alright?” Diane smiling with a tear in her eye, “Lora that was beautiful and perfect, it came straight from your heart and that is exactly what God wants. You know now “Sisters Three” are sisters in two ways emotionally and spiritually. Lynn became a Christian before she and Ken got married 2 ½ years ago. Ken shared Christ with her and 4 months into their dating she accepted Christ.

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 6

Jack what are you going to do with what God has shown you today?” Stunned, “Janet, I’m not so sure I know what to do. You have been a very good wife to me and I’ve been I lousy husband and father to Julie. I just don’t know if what you have found is for me.” “Why? Do you think you are any worse than any other sinner on Earth that He died for? If you do think that you are too bad to be redeemed, let me point out that you are allowing your pride to get in your way and stopping you from receiving the most precious gift that was ever given to man” responded Janet. Jack replied, “How can I be sure that Christ could care for even me?” “Jack, it says in Romans 5:8 ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ That is how you can be sure that he cares for even you. The question is what are you going to do with this most precious gift? Are you going to reject it and in the process reject eternal life and all the blessings that go with it? Or are you going to accept this wonderful gift? With the acceptance of this gift comes blessings galore; love, joy, peace, gratitude for all that He has done for you and given you no matter how much that is. Jack you’ve lived a life of anger and bitterness and emptiness long enough don’t you want something better for yourself?” Jack’s heart ached worst than ever, “Janet, when you made your decision did your heart ache?” Janet responded tenderly, “Yes, Jack worst than it ever had in my life like it was crying out to God. That is when I knew I had to take the step to open my hearts door to the knocking of the Savior. Is that what you are feeling now?” “Yes,” said Jack, “I can hardly stand it.” Janet’s own heart beat with joy, “Then may I suggest you confess your sins and ask Jesus to become the Lord of your life. Thank Him for the gift of salvation that He gave you and promise to be obedient to His word.” “Lord,” said Jack, “I’ve never come to you before and I realize the folly of that. God I am so full of sins I hardly know where to start. Please forgive me for my cruelty to my family and employees and my pride, arrogance, materialism and ungratefulness. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the Cross for me and pay the price of my sins. I accept that gift and ask You to become the Lord of my life. I realize now I’m no good at running my own life. I need You. I promise to be obedient to Your word and will. Thank You for this evening Lord, for bringing Gab and Esther into my life and for giving me my family that I had taken for granted. Thank you for Janet’s sweet spirit all these years. Help me to be the husband she deserves. Make me into the father that Julie longs for. Amen.” “Oh, Jack, I can’t express how happy you have made me. I know that you have a lot on your mind. I also know that the two or rather the three of us can face anything with God. My sweet Jack, I’m so grateful that God took everything from us and used it to bring you to Him! I’d rather start all over again with all of us knowing Him than having everything and not having Him.”

A thought occurred to Jack, “What about the fire and you and Julie? Are you grateful for that as well? How could you be grateful for that?” Disbelief and anger were surfacing in Jack at the thought of this. Janet tried to calm him, “Jack, I won’t deny that it was awful and has been terrible painful and I wish with all my heart that it had only been me that had been burned and not Julie. But I trust God and His wisdom I know that even in this He has a plan that will work to good. If this is what it had to take to get your attention I gladly pay the price and although I wish Julie wasn’t affected by this I know her heart for you well enough to know that she would gladly go through anything to have the family she now has. Please Jack see the good in this, if the fire had not happened you may have not lost the business which in turn brought you to God and to me and Julie. In this we can be grateful for all that has happened because the end product has brought wholeness to our family. Jack, don’t beat yourself up over this. I beg you to do your best to see the master plan in all this – we have the family Julie and I have been praying for continually.” With tears in his eyes, “Are you sure that you and Julie won’t hate me for the rest of our days for the consequences of my hard heart?” “Never!” responded Janet with her own tears, “We love you! Apart from God you are the love of our lives! Plus we wouldn’t be living His word if we didn’t forgive you. For in Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus says, ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.’ Plus my joy is too great at having the husband I have been longing for.” “You can truly be grateful for this?” asked Jack. “Yes, my love, God has given me the gift of gratitude. I pray that you find that same gift.” Responded Janet her eyes shining in the dawning sun. “It’s a lot to take in” he admitted, “but I am getting there. I can say I’m grateful for you, Julie and the wholeness I feel in my heart, I’m grateful for your forgiveness. Hum! I guess I could say that I too have found the gift of gratitude. I love you so much Janet thank you for being so patient with me and for praying all those years that this night would one day come.” “It has been my pleasure and the joy of my heart to pray for this night. God is so good and I’m so grateful!”

“Father, another humbled and grateful heart.” says Gab, as he goes down the hospital hall and disappears.

By Joy Dara Stephenson

You Were Created To Be Loved!

When God created the heavens and the earth and the animals He then said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” Genesis 1:26a  God was looking for someone with whom He could be in relationship.  We were made for relationship. Man had been created in God’s image. God is a triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit each in intimately connected to the other. Since we are created in God’s image we also need intimacy. God wants to have that intimate relationship with us.

In the garden before the fall of man, man had a relationship with God that was intimate.  (Genesis 3:3-9) For man to have been afraid of the sound of God walking in the garden, he must have been familiar with the sound for it to cause fear.

God created mankind to be in relationship with Him. But sin destroyed that. But our God is a merciful God. He is never without a backup plan. This rebellion was of no surprise to God. He’s  backup plan, Jesus Christ, was already worked out it was just going to come in His timing.

That offering took place on the cross by Jesus Christ.  You see God did not lie when He said anyone that ate of that tree would die.  The penalty for sin, which is what eating that fruit was – sin, is death.  God is a just God. All sin is equal in His eyes.  Holy can not look on unholy and sin makes us unholy no matter how big or small it is.

But God is also a loving Father that wants the very best for His children and longs to have relationship and longs to shower us with love.  He didn’t want us to die in our sin apart from Him.

So as a Holy Judge He accepted what Christ offered to do.  Jesus said, “Father (Your Honor) I’ll pay their penalty. I will die that they may live. Let them go and let me pay the price.”  So that is what Jesus did on that cross so long ago.  He died on the cross in place of you and me.  Now if He had just died that wouldn’t have been enough but He rose from the dead and now sits on the right hand of God.  When someone accepts what He did for them and asks forgiveness of their sins and repents of those sins.  Repents means turns away from.  Then Christ tells the Father that one is one of mine.

Once that is done the relationship we were created for.  That ache in your heart that can’t be filled with anything in this world; not a mate, children, riches, drugs, sex, food, anything that you may try.  That ache in your heart was put there by God so that you would come to Him.  He longs for you.  He wants to be there in the dead of night when no one else is there to be cried out to and soothe and comfort you.  He wants to be there during your joys and hear all about them.  He longs for your worship and for you to be still to listen to His voice as He speaks to you.

He’s the father of the prodigal son standing expectantly, looking down the road, hoping fervently to see you coming to Him.

He’ll knock on your door seeking fellowship with you, but He’s a gentleman and will never force Himself upon you.  It’s you, with your free choice, that must open the door of your heart to start the relationship.  He loves you that much! He puts it in your hands and leaves it to you.  Whether you choose to accept His gift of love is up to you.

Joy – A Woman After God’s Own Heart

When Life May Not Seem Fair

If you’re going through a divorce and in the midst of the fighting and chaos.  Or maybe you are contemplating a divorce or breakup or life just seems unfair.  Let me let you in on a little secret – life is unfair.  The lord of this world is Satan not our Heavenly Father.  The world became unfair when sin came into the world with the eating of the forbidden fruit.

We all sin and that sin keeps us away from God.  But being the loving and just God that He is he made a way to have relationship with Him.  Since He is holy and can’t look on sin, He sent His One and Only Son to pay the penalty that we deserve.  That’s how much He loves us.  All we have to do is to accept the free gift He gave by dying on the cross for our sins and raising from the dead to show that He has power over death.  It’s that simple.  There is nothing that you can do to make yourself worthy.  No deed will ever be enough to pay the price of death.  That’s why Christ chose to pay it for us, willingly.  Just ask Him into your heart, ask Him to forgive your sins and turn from those sins.  What I mean is decide not to do them any longer.  That is what He is waiting for it is that simple.

What has that to do with life not being fair?  Everything, once you have Christ in you life no matter what it is you are going through, it  is easier when you lean on Christ.  He gives you the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you.  When you read His Word and pray and listen to the Holy Spirit it helps you through the hard times.

I have been divorced for over 22 years and during my divorce God brought me through things that I just thought I couldn’t get through.  I faced financial problems and emotional problems that God used Himself and others to bring me through a very difficult time.  I felt that it was unfair but fair or not I’m grateful for all of it because it has matured me into the woman of God that I am today.  It has taught me how to depend on Him and helped me in my journey to trust Him.

I know that as painful as whatever it is you are going through now there are wondrous joys to be had as time marches on.  Take courage and hold on to God’s hand and let Him get you through.

Joy – A Woman After God’s Own Heart